Sunday, December 23, 2012

Why You Always Check the Output of a Mapping or GPS Application...

In one photo:

google maps, maps error, gps

It's not a bad map: really, it's not. The roads to take are respectable. The plan is simple enough.

Yet despite being right next to a major highway, Google Maps tells one to head in a counter-productive direction (northwest, with the west part being that opposite the goal), far more west than the little drive south to catch the highway would be. One would have to take several major roads, with all their lights. And of course deal with their traffic.

It seems obvious to the human being...this is not a rag on Google Maps...that the major roads full of traffic and lights and summing to extra distance are not ideal, just by looking: yet a mapping application is not so blessed. Perhaps it feels one should head north before south, before all other considerations, since the goal is north of the origin?

I worked for a large company with a GPS system that did this all the time--and far worse, but unlike Google Maps, could not be adjusted onscreen by moving the little line. That darn thing gave us fits and bad advice every time used: you always checked and re-checked its instructions; basically, just using it to pinpoint the endpoint so you yourself could plan the way.

It is rather obvious to some--many I hope--people, but to many it is otherwise. Weeks ago, a certain family member and I were heading to a home when he realized we had taken a long, winding route just to come out on a major road with which he was familiar--in fact, all locals are familiar with--by following MapQuest instructions. If he had just checked the map after printing and before leaving, we would not have wasted ages of time: humorously, the map had given the shorter route, it just hadn't figured-in the size of vehicle, angle of turns, their affect on speed, speed limits of the different possible routes, and so forth: things human beings can do in an instant looking at a map of a familiar-enough area.

Now don't ask me why I made this map, as I really don't know. It has almost no use to me, and I can't (at the moment) remember the reason for typing the points in that I did. Rather, point these things out to people unfamiliar with mapping applications and GPSes, so they can save some time and fury by checking the results before following unquestioningly. It's still common for people not to, and in reality the rushed person will still save time by checking every time.

A human, especially one familiar with the major throughways and general characteristics of drivers and traffic, can spot problems instantly; probably identify points to avoid and alternative roads; alter route in mind instantly; you name it! If you don't check before using a GPS or mapping application, something like this, (accidents caused by following GPS directions), may happen.

The point is, and it's not said or spread enough, don't trust these devices or softwares: check the output before following it. It will save you hassle, heartbreak, potentially life and limb, fuel, and time. For those who know with friends and family who don't, or don't practice what they suppose they know, mail them a link to this post.

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